- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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It's one thing to hear about a great card in the works. Happens all the time. But often disappointment follows because one fight or another isn't finalized, for whatever reason.
So for the past couple weeks, when I was hearing a lot of discussion about a brewing Top Rank "Boxing After Dark" doubleheader on HBO that would include unified junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire against former titlist Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan -- who isn't well-known in the United States but is an outstanding fighter in the 122-pound division -- and junior welterweight brawlers Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios possibly squaring off, I was excited. But I also figured it was too good to be true and that at least one of the fights wouldn't come to fruition.
So it was a nice way to wake up on Wednesday with Top Rank making the formal announcement that indeed the doubleheader was signed, sealed and delivered for Oct. 13 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
That is a fantastic card, and Top Rank and HBO deserve props for getting it done. I'll be the first to crush a promoter or network for serving viewers overpriced, dreck mismatches, but I will also give credit when it's due, and this is a tremendous card.
Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs) was originally supposed to face Jorge Arce, a much bigger name than Nishioka and one of my all-time favorite action fighters.
Competitively, however, I figured it would be a mismatch, with Donaire winning easily. So when Arce priced himself out of the fight and Nishioka, who had been in the mix all along, got the call, I couldn't have been more pleased. He's a little older (36), but he can fight.
Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) hasn't lost in eight years. He has won 16 fights in a row and faced several excellent opponents. When he held his junior featherweight title, he made seven defenses -- and the only reason he doesn't still have the belt is because he was forced to give it up when he took some time off. He'll end a one-year layoff when he faces Donaire, which isn't too much time off for a top fighter. So the main event is a really interesting, likely competitive fight between two of the world's best junior featherweights.
As interesting as that fight is, I believe Alvarado-Rios could be the fight of the year. It has slugfest/bloodbath/epic violence written all over it. For those at ringside, some advice: Bring a raincoat. The blood might be flying.
Alvarado (33-0, 23 KOs) and Rios (30-0-1, 21 KOs) have skills, but they mostly can't help but to get themselves into brawls. Alvarado's two most recent fights, on pay-per-view undercards, stole the shows. There was a bloody, come-from-behind 10th-round knockout of Breidis Prescott in November and an all-out slugfest with Mauricio Herrera in April that is a leading fight of the year candidate in its own right (and aired on a Rios undercard).
Rios has made his own share of fun fights -- Urbano Antillon, John Murray and Miguel Acosta, to name three. Yes, he has had his problems making weight, missing 135 pounds in two consecutive fights and losing his world title at the scales in December. I also thought Richard Abril whipped him in their April fight. But I'm quite confident that at 140 pounds, Rios will be in much better condition and stronger.
When the bell rings, these guys are going to meet in the center of the ring and the punches will fly. I know it's sacrilege to some, but I couldn't help but think of the Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward and Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo fights when I heard Alvarado-Rios was set. That's how good it could be.
I spoke to HBO's Kery Davis on Wednesday about the show, and he was practically giddy to have such a high-quality doubleheader set. His statement in the news releases announcing the fight was also dead on:
"Fight fans everywhere will be marking their calendars for Oct. 13 to see this superb, all-action doubleheader on our late-night franchise," he said.
Consider my calendar marked. Now I just need to check into flights to California.